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ST 






As selected by 

12 

OUTSTANDING AUTHORS 



Edited by 

■ 

LEO MARGULIES and OSCAR J. FRIEND 




POCKET BOOKS, INC. ♦ NEW YORK, N. Y. 



CONTENTS 



Page 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .......... iv 



* • 



INTRODUCTION ............. vii 

ROBOT AL 76 GOES ASTRAY 

Isaac Asimov 

author's introduction * . . 1 

STORY • • . . 3 

THE TEACHER FROM MARS 

Eando Binder 

author's introduction . . - 18 

STORY 20 

ALMOST HUMAN 

Robert Block 

author's introduction 37 

w 

STORY 39 

> 

BLINDNESS 

John W . Campbell, Jr. 

author's introduction 60 

STORY 62 

THE INN OUTSIDE THE WORLD 

Edmond Hamilton 

author's introduction 80 

81 



STORY 






* 






Page 



DON'T LOOK NOW 

Henry Kuttner 

author's introduction 98 

story 99 

THE LOST RACE 

Murray Leinster 

author's introduction 114 

STORY 116 

DOCTOR GRIMSHAW'S SANITARIUM 

Fletcher Pratt 

author's introduction . . 139 



STORY 



140 



THE ULTIMATE CATALYST 

John Taine 

authors introduction 156 

STORY 157 

PROJECT— SPACESHIP 

A. E. Van Vogt 






author's introduction 183 



STORY 



184 



SPACE STATION NO. 1 

Manly Wade Wellman 

author's introduction 212 



STORY 



214 



STAR BRIGHT 

Jack Williamson 

author's introduction 232 

story 234 



WHY I SELECTED 



DON'T LOOK NOW 



Why I selected don't look now as my favorite science' 
fiction story is because it has the technical accuracy of Jules 
Verne, the realism of H. G. Wells, the social implications of 
Tolstoi (Leo— the Count, I mean), the freedom of Laurence 
Sterne, and the terseness of the Bible (the King James trans- 
lation, of course). Moreover, I can honestly say it is my fa- 
vorite story because I have reread all my others, on publica- 
tion, and they disgusted me. For one reason or another, I 
didn't get around to rereading don't look now, and can 
therefore regard it with the unbiased, critical, gemlike eye 
of the happy creator. 

As everyone knows who has ever written— and who hasn't? 
—the actual process of writing generally causes a state of 

psychopathic euphoria to set in. During literary gestation, the 
writer knows perfectly well that this yarn is the best he's ever 
written, and very likely the best anybody's ever written. This 
state of self-adulation may last for an indefinite period. In my 
case, unfortunately, it seldom does. If I didn't maintain it 
artificially, by cheers, cries of "Bravo!" and a built-in self- 
reflexive claque, I probably would never submit a finished 
story to an editor. I would just tear it and myself, up. 

But luckily I have not reread don't look now since it was 
written, so I can very fairly say it's my favorite yarn. 

Anyway, my wife wrote it. 

HENBY KUTTNER 



98 



HENRY KU-TTNER 



DON'T LOOK NOW 






That Man Beside You May Be a Martian. 
They Own Our World, but Only a Few Wise 
and Far-Seeing Men Like Lyman Know It! 



- 

XHE man in the brown suit was looking at himself in the 

mirror behind the bar. The reflection seemed to interest him 

even more deeply than the drink between his hands. He was 
paying only perfunctory attention to Lyman's attempts at con- 
versation. This had been going on for perhaps fifteen minutes 
before he finally lifted his glass and took a deep swallow. 

"Don't look now," Lyman said. 

The brown man slid his eyes sidewise toward Lyman, tilted 
his glass higher, and took another swig. Ice-cubes slipped 
down toward his mouth. He put the glass back on the red- 
brown wood and signaled for a refill. Finally he took a deep 

breath and looked at Lyman. 

"Don't look at what?" he asked. 



"There was one sitting right beside you," Lyman said, 
blinking rather glazed eyes. "He just went out. You mean you 
couldn't see him?" 

The brown man finished paying for his fresh drink before 
he answered. "See who?" he asked, with a fine mixture of 
boredom, distaste and reluctant interest. "Who went out?" 

"What have I been telling you for the last ten minutes? 
Weren't you listening?" 

99 



100 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

"Certainly I was listening. That is— certainly. You were talk- 
ing about— bathtubs. Radios. Orson—" 

"Not Orson. H. G. Herbert George. With Orson it was just 
a gag. H. G. knew— or suspected. I wonder if it was simply 
intuition with him? He couldn't have had any proof— but he 
did stop writing science fiction rather suddenly, didn't he? 
I'll bet he knew once, though." 

"Knew what?" 

"About the Martians. All this won't do us a bit of good if 

you don't listen. It may not anyway. The trick is to jump the 

gun— with proof. Convincing evidence. Nobody's ever been 
allowed to produce the evidence before. You are Q. reporter, 

aren t your 

Holding his glass, the man in the . brown suit nodded 

reluctantly. 

"Then you ought to be taking it all down on a piece of 
folded paper. I want everybody to know. The whole world. 
It's important. Terribly important. It explains everything. My 
life won't be safe unless I can pass along the information and 
make people believe it." 

"Why won't your life be safe?" 

"Because of the Martians, you fool. They own the world." 

The brown man sighed. "Then they own my newspaper, 
too," he objected, "so I can't print anything they don't like." 

"I never thought of that," Lyman said, considering the bot- 
tom of his glass, where two ice-cubes had fused into a cold, 
immutable union. "They're not omnipotent, though. I'm sure 
they're vulnerable, or why have they always kept under 
cover? They're afraid of being found out. If the world had 
convincing evidence— look, people always believe what they 

read in the newspapers. Couldn't you—" 

"Ha," said the brown man with deep significance. 
Lyman drummed sadly on the bar and murmured, "There 

must be some way. Perhaps if I had another drink. . . ." 
The brown-suited man tasted his collins, which seemed to 

stimulate him. "Just what is all this about Martians?" he asked 

Lyman. "Suppose you start at the beginning and tell me 

again. Or can't you remember?" 



don't look now 



101 



"Of course I can remember. I've got practically total recall. 
It's something new. Very new. I never could do it before. I 
can even remember my last conversation with the Martians." 
Lyman favored the brown man with a glance of triumph. 

"When was that?" 

"This morning." 

"I can even remember conversations I had last week," the 
brown man said mildly. "So what?" 

"You don't understand. They make us forget, you see. They 
. tell us what to do and we forget about the conversation— it's 
post-hypnotic suggestion, I expect— but we follow their orders 
just the same. There's the compulsion, though we think we're 
making our own decisions. Oh, they own the world, all right, 
but nobody knows it except me." 

"And how did you find out?" 

"Well, I got my brain scrambled, in a way. I've been fool- 
ing around with supersonic detergents, trying to work out 
something marketable, you know. The gadget went wrong— 
from some standpoints. High-frequency waves, it was. They 
went through and through me. Should have been inaudible, 
but I could hear them, or rather— well, actually I could see 
them. That's what I mean about my brain being scrambled. 
And after that, I could see and hear the Martians. They've 
geared themselves so they work efficiently on ordinary brains, 
and mine isn't ordinary any more. They can't hypnotize me, 
either. They can command me, but I needn't obey— now. I 
hope they don't suspect. Maybe they do. Yes, I guess they 
do. 



«tt . nrvw 



How can you tell? : 

"The way they look at me." 

"How do they look at you?" asked the brown man, as he 
began to reach for a pencil and then changed his mind. He 
took a drink instead. "Well? What are they like?" 

"I'm not sure. I can see them, all right, but only when 
they're dressed up." 

"Okay, okay," the brown man said patiently. "How do they 
look, dressed up?" 

"Just like anybody, almost. They dress up in— in human 



102 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

skins. Oh, not real ones, imitations. Like the Katzenjammer 
Kids zipped into crocodile suits. Undressed— I don't know. 
I've never seen one. Maybe they're invisible even to me, 
then, or maybe they're just camouflaged. Ants or owls or rats 
or bats or- 



)ats or—" 
a. 



Or anything," the brown man said hastily. 

"Thanks. Or anything, of course. But when they're dressed 
up like humans— like that one who was sitting next to you 
awhile ago, when I told you not to look—" 

"That one was invisible, I gather?" 

"Most of the time they are, to everybody. But once in a 
while, for some reason, they—" 

"Wait," the brown man objected. "Make sense, will you? 
They dress up in human skins and then sit around invisible?" 

"Only now and then. The human skins are perfectly good 
imitations. Nobody can tell the difference. It's that third eye 
that gives them away. When they keep it closed, you'd never 
guess it was there. When they want to open it, they go invisi- 
ble—like that. Fast. When I see somebody with a third eye, 

right in the middle of his forehead, I know he's a Martian 
and invisible, and I pretend not to notice him." 

"Uh-huh," the brown man said. "Then for all you know, I'm 

one of your visible Martians." 

"Oh, I hope not!" Lyman regarded him anxiously. "Drunk 
as I am, I don't think so. I've been trailing you all day, mak- 
ing sure. It's a risk I have to take, of course. They'll go to any 
length— any length at all— to make a man give himself away. 
I realize that. I can't really trust anybody. But I had to find 
someone to talk to, and I—" He paused. There was a brief 
silence. "I could be wrong," Lyman said presently. "When 
the third eye's closed, I can't tell if it's there. Would you 
mind opening your third eye for me?" He fixed a dim gaze on 
the brown man's forehead. 

"Sorry," the reporter said. "Some other time. Besides, I 
don't know you. So you want me to splash this across the 
front page, I gather? Why didn't you go to see the managing 
editor? My stories have to get past the desk and rewrite." 

"I want to give my secret to the world," Lyman said stub- 



DON T LOOK NOW 



103 

bornly. "The question is, how far will I get? You'd expect 
they'd have killed me the minute I opened my mouth to you— 
except that I didn't say anything while they were here. I don't 
believe they take us very seriously, you know. This must have 
been going on since the dawn of history, and by now they've 
had time to get careless. They let Fort go pretty far before 
they cracked down on him. But you notice they were careful 
never to let Fort get hold of genuine proof that would con- 
vince people." 

The brown man said something under his breath about a 
human interest story in a box. He asked, "What do the Mar- 
tians do, besides hang around bars all dressed up?" 

"I'm still working on that," Lyman said. "It isn't easy to 

understand. They run the world, of course, but why?" He 

wrinkled his brow and stared appealingly at the brown man. 
Why? 

If they do run it, they've got a lot to explain." 

That's what I mean. From our viewpoint, there's no sense 

to it. We do things illogically, but only because they tell us 

to. Everything we do, almost, is pure illogic. Poe's Imp of 
the Perverse— you could give it another name beginning with 
M. Martian, I mean. It's all very well for psychologists to 
explain why a murderer wants to confess, but it's still an 
illogical reaction. Unless a Martian commands him to." 

"You can't be hypnotized into doing anything that violates 
your moral sense," the brown man said triumphantly. 

Lyman frowned. "Not by another human, but you can by a 
Martian. I expect they got the upper hand when we didn't 
have more than ape-brains, and they've kept it ever since. 
They evolved as we did, and kept a step ahead. Like the spar- 
row on the eagle's back who hitch-hiked till the eagle reached 
his ceiling, and then took off and broke the altitude record. 
They conquered the world, but nobody ever knew it. And 
they've been ruling ever since." 
But- 



«TT7l 
« 



Ml 



Take houses, for example. Uncomfortable things. Ugly, 
inconvenient, dirty, everything wrong with them. But when 
men like Frank Lloyd Wright slip out from under the Mar- 



104 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

tians' thumb long enough to suggest something better, look 
how the people react. They hate the thought. That's their 
Martians, giving them orders/* 

"Look. Why should the Martians care what kind of houses 

we live in? Tell me that." 

Lyman frowned. "I don't like the note of skepticism I de- 
tect creeping into this conversation," he announced. "They 
care, all right. No doubt about it. They live in our houses. We 

don't build for our convenience, we build, under order, for 

the Martians, the way they want it. They're very much con- 
cerned with everything we do. And the more senseless, the 
more concern. 

"Take wars. Wars don't make sense from any human view- 
point. Nobody really wants wars. But we go right on having 

them. From the Martian viewpoint, they're useful. They give 
us a spurt in technology, and they reduce the excess popula- 
tion. And there are lots of other results, too. Colonization, for 
one thing. But mainly technology. In peace time, if a guy 
invents jet-propulsion, it's too expensive to develop commer- 
cially. In war-time, though, it's got to be developed. Then the 
Martians can use it whenever they want. They use us the way 

they'd use tools or— or limbs. And nobody ever really wins a 
war— except the Martians." 

The man in the brown suit chuckled. "That makes sense," 
he said. "It must be nice to be a Martian. 1 



jaia. it must oe nice to oe a Martian." 



Why not? Up till now, no race ever successfully conquered 

and ruled another. The underdog could revolt or absorb. If 

you know you're being ruled, then the ruler's vulnerable. But 

if the world doesn't know— and it doesn't— 

"Take radios," Lyman continued, going off at a tangent. 
"There's no earthly reason why a sane human should listen to 

a radio. But the Martians make us do it. They like it. Take 
bathtubs. Nobody contends bathtubs are comfortable— for us. 
But they're fine for Martians. All the impractical things we 

keep on using, even though we know they're impractical—" 

"Typewriter ribbons," the brown man said, struck by the 

thought. "But not even a Martian could enjoy changing a 

' typewriter ribbon." 



DONT LOOK NOW 105 

Lyman seemed to find that flippant. He said that he knew 
all about the Martians except for one thing— their psychology. 

"I don't know why they act as they do. It looks illogical 
sometimes, but I feel perfectly sure they've got sound motives 
for every move they make. Until I get that worked out I'm 
pretty much at a standstill. Until I get evidence— proof— and 
help. I've got to stay under cover till then. And I've been 
doing that. I do what they tell me, so they won't suspect, 
and I pretend to forget what they tell me to forget." 

"Then you've got nothing much to worry about." 

Lyman paid no attention. He was off again on a list of his 
grievances. 

"When I hear the water running in the tub and a Martian 
splashing around, I pretend I don't hear a thing. My bed's too 

short and I tried last week to order a special length, but the 
Martian that sleeps there told me not to. He's a runt, like most 
of them. That is, I think they're runts. I have to deduce, 
because you never see them undressed. But it goes on like 

that constantly. By the way, how's your Martian?" 

The man in the brown suit set down his glass rather sud- 
denly. 

"My Martian?" 

"Now listen. I may be just a little bit drunk, but my logic 
remains unimpaired. I can still put two and two together. 
Either you know about the Martians, or you don't. If you do, 
there's no point in giving me that, 'What, my Martian? 7 rou- 
tine. I know you have a Martian. Your Martian knows you 
have a Martian. My Martian knows. The point is, do you 
know? Think hard," Lyman urged solicitously. 

"No, I haven't got a Martian," the reporter said, taking a 
quick drink. The edge of the glass clicked against his teeth. 

"Nervous, I see," Lyman remarked. "Of course you have 
got a Martian. I suspect you know it." 

"What would I be doing with a Martian?" the brown man 
asked with dogged dogmatism. 

"What would you be doing without one? I imagine it's 
illegal. If they caught you running around without one they'd 
probably put you in a pound or something until claimed. Oh, 



«. 




106 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

you've got one, all right. So have I. So has he, and he, and 
he— and the bartender." Lyman enumerated the other bar- 
flies, with a wavering forefinger. 

'Of course s they have," the brown man said. "But they'll all 
go back to Mars tomorrow and then you can see a good doc- 
tor. You'd better have another dri— " 

■ 

He was turning toward the bartender when Lyman, appar- 
ently by accident, leaned close to him and whispered ur- 
gently, 

"Don't look now!" 

The brown man glanced at Lyman's white face reflected 

in the mirror before them. 

"It's all right," he said. "There aren't any Mar-" 

Lyman gave him a fierce, quick kick under the edge of t 

bar. 

"Shut up! One just came in!" 

And then he caught the brown man's gaze and with elabo- 
rate unconcern said, "—so naturally, there was nothing for_me 
to do but climb out on the roof after it. Took me ten minutes 
to get it down the ladder, and just as we reached the bottom 
it gave one bound, climbed up my face, sprang from the top 
of my head, and there it was again on the roof, screaming for 
me to get it 

"What?" the brown man demanded with pardonable curi- 
osity. 

"My cat, of course. What did you think? No, never mind, 
don't answer that." Lyman's face was turned to the brown 
man's, but from the corners of his eyes he was watching an 
invisible progress down the length of the bar toward a booth 
at the very back. 

"Now why did he come in?" he murmured. "I don't like 
this. Is he anyone you know?' 

"Is who-?" 

"That Martian. Yours, by any chance? No, I suppose not. 
Yours was probably the one who went out a while ago. I won- 
der if he went to make a report, and sent this one in? It's 

possible. It could be. You can talk now, but keep your voice 




» 



«■ 



■ 



DONT LOOS NOW 



10/ 



low, and stop squirming. Want him to notice we can see 
him?" 

"I can't see him. Don't drag me into this. You and your 
Martians can fight it out together. You're making me nervous. 
I ve got to go, anyway." But he didn't move to get off the 
stool. Across Lyman's shoulder he was stealing glances toward 
the back of the bar, and now and then he looked at Lyman's 
face. 



Stop watching me," Lyman said. "Stop watching him. 

Anybody'd think you were a cat." 

"Why a cat? Why should anybody— do I look like a cat?" 
"We were talking about cats, weren't we? Cats can see 

them, quite clearly. Even undressed, I believe. They don't 

like them." 

"Who doesn't like who?" 

"Whom. Neither likes the other. Cats can see Martians— 
sh-h!— but they pretend not to, and that makes the Martians 
mad. I have a theory that cats ruled the world before Mar- 
tians came. Never mind. Forget about cats. This may be more 

serious than you think. I happen to know my Martian's takin; 

tonight off, and I'm pretty sure that was your Martian who 

went out some time ago. And have you noticed that nobody 

else in here has his Martian with him? Do you suppose—" His 
voice sank. "Do you suppose they could be waiting for us 
outside?" 

"Oh, Lord," the brown man said. "In the alley with the 
cats, I suppose." 

"Why don't you stop this yammer about cats and be serious 
for a moment?" Lyman demanded, and then paused, paled, 
and reeled slightly on his stool. He hastily took a drink to 
cover his confusion. 

What's the matter now?" the brown man asked. 

! Nothing." Gulp. "Nothing. It was just that— he looked at 

me. With— you know." 

"Let me get this straight. I take it the Martian is dressed 
in— is dressed like a human?" 



<i- 



«• 



"Naturally." 

"But he's invisible to all eyes but yours?" 



108 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

- 

"Yes. He doesn't want to be visible, just now. Besides—" 
Lyman paused cunningly. He gave the brown man a furtive 
glance and then looked quickly down at his drink. "Besides, 
you know, I rather think you can see him— a little, anyway." 

The brown man was perfectly silent for about thirty sec- 
onds. He sat quite motionless, not even the ice in the drink 
he held clinking. One might have thought he did not even 

breathe. Certainly he did not blink. 

"What makes you think that?" he asked in a normal voice, 

after the thirty seconds had run out. 

"I— did I say anything? I wasn't listening." Lyman put 

down his drink abruptly. "I think I'll go now." 

. "No, you won't," the brown man said, closing his fingers 

around Lyman's wrist. "Not yet you won't. - Come back here. 

Sit down. Now. What was the idea? Where were you going?" 
Lyman nodded dumbly toward the back of the bar, indi- 
cating either a juke-box or a door marked MEN. 

"I don't feel so good. Maybe I've had too much to drink. 
I guess I'll-" - 

"You're all right. I don't trust you back there with that— 
that invisible man of yours. You'll stay right here until he 
leaves." 

"He's going now," Lyman said brightly. His eyes moved 

with great briskness along the line of an invisible but rapid 

progress toward the front door. "See, he's gone. Now let me 

loose, will you?" 

The brown man glanced toward the back booth. 

"No," he said, "he isn't gone. Sit right where you are." 

It was Lyman's turn to remain quite still, in a stricken sort 

of way, for a perceptible while. The ice in his drink, however, 

clinked audibly. Presently he spoke. His voice was soft, and 

rather soberer than before. 

"You're right. He's still there. You can see him, can't you?" 

The brown man said, "Has he got his back to us?" 

"You can see him, then. Better than I can maybe. Maybe 

there are more of them here than I thought. They could be 

anywhere. They could be sitting beside you anywhere you 

go, and you wouldn't even guess, until—" He shook his head a 



DON T LOOK NOW 



109 

little. "They'd want to be sure," he said, mostly to himself. 
"They can give you orders and make you forget, but there 
must be limits to what they can force you to do. They can't 
make a man betray himself. They'd have to lead him on— 
until they were sure." 

He lifted his drink and tipped it steeply above his face. The 
ice ran down the slope and bumped coldly against his lip, but 
he held it until the last of the pale, bubbling amber had 
drained into his mouth. He set the glass on the bar and faced 
the brown man. 



"Well?" he said. 

The brown man looked up and down the bar. 

"It's getting late," he said. "Not many people left. We'll 
wait." 

"Wait for what?" 

The brown man looked toward the back booth and looked 
away again quickly. 

"I have something to show you. I don't want anyone else 

to see." 

Lyman surveyed the narrow, smoky room. As he looked the 
last customer beside themselves at the bar began groping in 
his pocket, tossed^some change on the mahogany, and went 
out slowly. 

They sat in silence. The bartender eyed them with stolid 
disinterest. Presently a couple in the front booth got up and 
departed, quarreling in undertones. 

"Is there anyone left?" the brown man asked in a voice that 

did not carry down the bar to the man in the apron, 

"Only—" Lyman did not finish, but he nodded gently to- 
ward the back of the room. "He isn't looking. Let's get this 

over with. What do you want to show me?" 

The brown man took off his wrist-watch and pried up the 
metal case. Two small, glossy photograph prints slid out. The 
brown man separated them with a finger. 

"I just want to make sure of something," he said. "First- 
why did you pick me out? Quite a while ago, you said you'd 
been trailing me all day, making sure. I haven't forgotten that. 



"I 



110 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

And you knew I was a reporter. Suppose you tell me the 

truth, now?" 

Squirming on his stool, Lyman scowled. "It was the way 
you looked at things," he murmured. "On the subway this 

morning— I'd never seen you before in my life, but I kept 

noticing the way you looked at things— the wrong things, 

things that weren't there, the way a cat does— and then you'd 

always look away— I got the idea you could see the Martians 

too." 

Go on," the brown man said quietly. 

I followed you. All day. I kept hoping you'd turn out to 

be— somebody I could talk to. Because if I could know that I 

wasn't the only one who could see them, then I'd know there 

was still some hope left. It's been worse than solitary confine- 
ment. I've been able to see them for three years now. Three 

years. And I've managed to keep my power a secret even from 

them. And, somehow, I've managed to keep from killing my- 
self, too." 

"Three years?" the brown man said. He shivered. 

"There was always a little hope. I knew nobody would be- 
lieve—not without proof. And how can you get proof? It was 
only that I— I kept telling myself that maybe you could see 
them too, and if you could, maybe there were others— lots of 
others— enough so we might get together and work out some 
way of proving to the world—" 

The brown man's fingers were moving. In silence he 
pushed a photograph across the mahogany. Lyman picked it 
up unsteadily. 

"Moonlight?" he asked after a moment. It was a landscape 
under a deep, dark sky with white clouds in it. Trees stood 
white and lacy against the darkness. The grass was white as 
if with moonlight, and the shadows blurry. 

"No, not moonlight," the brown man said. "Infra-red. I'm 
strictly an amateur, but lately I've been experimenting with 

infrared film. And I got some very odd results." 

Lyman stared at the film. 

"You see, I five near—" The brown man's finger tapped a 
certain quite common object that appeared in the photo- 



don't LOOK NOW 111 

graph, "—and something funny keeps showing up now and 

then against it. But only with infra-red film. Now I know 

chlorophyll reflects so much infra-red light that grass and 

leaves photograph white. The sky comes out black, like this. 

There are tricks to using this kind of film. Photograph a tree 

against a cloud, and you can t tell them apart in the print. 

But you can photograph through a haze and pick out distant 

objects the ordinary film wouldn't catch. And sometimes, 

when you focus on something like this—" He tapped the 

image of the very common object again. "You get a very odd 

image on the film. Like that. A man with three eyes." 

Lyman held the print up to the light. In silence he took the 

other one from the bar and studied it. When he laid them 
down he was smiling. 

"You know," Lyman said in a conversational whisper, "a 
professor of astrophysics at one of the more important uni- 
versities had a very interesting little item in the Times the 
other Sunday. Name of Spitzer, I think. He said that, if there 
were life on Mars, and if Martians had ever visited earth, 
there'd be no way to prove it. Nobody would believe the few 
men who saw them. Not, he said, unless the Martians hap- 
pened to be photographed. ..." 

Lyman looked at the brown man thoughtfully. 

"Well," he said, "it's happened. You've photographed 
them." 

The brown man nodded. He took up the prints and re- 
turned them to his watch-case. "I thought so, too. Only until 
tonight I couldn't be sure. I'd never seen one— fully— as you 
have. It isn't so much a matter of what you call getting your 
brain scrambled with supersonics as it is of just knowing 
where to look. But I've been seeing part of them all my life, 
and so has everybody. It's that little suggestion of movement 
you never catch except just at the edge of your vision, just 
out of the corner of your eye. Something that's almost the: 
and when you look fully at it, there's nothing. These photo- 
graphs showed me the way. It's not easy to learn, but it can 
be done. We're conditioned to look directly at a thing— the 
particular thing we want to see clearly, whatever it is. Perhaps 



112 MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY 

the Martians gave us that conditioning. When we see a move- 
ment at the edge of our range of vision, it's almost irresistible 
not to look directly at it. So it vanishes." 

"Then they can be seen— by anybody?" 

"I've learned a lot in a few days," the brown man said. 

"Since I took those photographs. You have to train yourself. 

It's like seeing a trick picture— one that's really a composite, 

after you study it. Camouflage. You Just have to learn how. 

Otherwise we can look at them all our lives and never see 
them." j 

"The camera does, though." 

"Yes, the camera does. I've wondered why nobody ever 
caught them this way before. Once you see them on film, 
they're unmistakable— that third eye." 

"Infra-red film's comparatively new, isn't it? And then I'll 
bet you have to catch them against that one particular back- 
ground—you know— or they won't show on the film. Like trees 
against, clouds. It's tricky. You must have had just the right 

lighting that day, and exactly the right focus, and the lens 

stopped down just right. A kind of minor miracle. It might 
never happen again exactly that way. But . . . don't look 



now." 



They were silent. Furtively, they watched the mirror. Their 
eyes slid along toward the open door of the tavern. 

And then there was a long, breathless silence. 

"He looked back at us," Lyman said very quietly. "He 
looked at us . . . that third eye!" 

The brown man was motionless again. When he moved, it 
was to swallow the rest of his drink. 

"I don't think that they're suspicious yet," he said. "The 
trick will be to keep under cover until we can blow this thing 
wide open. There's got to be some way to do it— some way 
that will convince people." 

"There's proof. The photographs. A competent cameraman 
ought to be able to figure out just how you caught that Mar- 
tian on film and duplicate the conditions. It's evidence." 

"Evidence can cut both ways," the brown man said. "What 

I'm hoping is that the Martians don't really like to kill— unless 



don't look now 



113 

n 



they have to. I'm hoping they won't kill without proof. But- 
He tapped his wrist-watch. 

"There's two of us now, though," Lyman said. "We've got 
to stick together. Both of us have broken the big rule— don't 
look now—" 

The bartender was at the back, disconnecting the juke-box. 
The brown man said, "We'd better not be seen together un- 
necessarily. But if we both come to this bar tomorrow night at 
nine for a drink— that wouldn't look suspicious, even to them." 

"Suppose—" Lyman hesitated. "May I have one of those 
photographs?" 

"Why?" 

"If one of us had— an accident— the other one would still 
have the proof. Enough, maybe, to convince the right people." 

The brown man hesitated, nodded shortly, and opened his 
watch-case again. He gave Lyman one of the pictures. 

"Hide it," he said. "It's— evidence. I'll see you here tomor- 
row. Meanwhile, be careful. Remember to play safe." 

They shook hands firmly, facing each other in an endless 

second of final, decisive silence. Then the brown man turned 
abruptly and walked out of the bar. 

Lyman sat there. Between two wrinkles in his forehead 
there was a stir and a flicker of lashes unfurling. The third 
eye opened slowly and looked after the brown man. 



/